Why Putting Pets on a Package Grabs Attention – No Matter What’s Inside

Around the end-of-year gift-giving season, it’s fun to check out the packages that grab our attention. Like this one:

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Completely irresistible. How can you not look at those kitties and love them? Won’t you take them home? The feelings are so strong that it barely registers that what you’re also buying is the contents inside the box: in this case, small butter biscuits. Nothing to do with pets. But your brain, hardwired for attachment, feeling safe and happiest in connection, instantly overrides all logic.

The reasoning parts of your mind simply can’t compete with the attachment parts. Why? They’re up against 3.8 billion years of evolution. When mammals showed up  200 million years ago their young were uniquely helpless—the world had never seen such needy little ones. The tendency accelerated over the millennia, particularly for primates, and today humans bear the most helpless babies ever. If our infant offspring had the abilities of a newborn chimpanzee, our nearest living relative, they’d have to gestate 18-21 months!

So we stick readily—even to embossed kittens on a metal box – because that’s the solution Mother Nature came up with to overcome acute post-natal helplessness: acute attachment behavior. Nothing else could secure the species’ survival. And the quirky side-effect? We’ll attach to anything that suggests a little face—even on an inanimate box or bottle or building facade.

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Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 9.23.11 AMIt can’t be any other way since Nature’s preset what we most need to look at before birth. Marketers know this, of course, and use it effectively.  Architects don’t – and should take note!


cottage photo: © S Hines

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